One of the biggest obstacles to our becoming happy is our inability to be satisfied, says Dennis Prager, author of Happiness is a Serious Problem. In case you didn’t notice, human nature makes us insatiable. We are never completely satisfied with ourselves, our partner, our income, our homes, our children, our jobs, our sex lives, or our bodies. We’re never completely satisfied with our entire lives, and due to our human nature, we may never be.
That is not to say that we cannot learn to be content. However, it doesn’t serve us well to pretend the outside world is always to blame for our dissatisfaction, when truly, the world couldn’t really satisfy us if it tried. Nor could our partners. Therefore, working on our inner thoughts is part of our journey to become happier.
“We must be able, in effect, to tell our nature that although we hear it and respect it, our mind, not our nature, will determine whether we are satisfied,” says Prager.
This ability to choose happiness is why we see individuals living in poverty across the world who are much happier than some truly wealthy westerners. While we may be dissatisfied, we can still choose happiness. We can work on reducing the causes of our dissatisfaction while also deciding that we are going to choose to be happy. Even in a world that includes evil, we can still find happiness.
Some of humankind’s inability to be satisfied is positive. Dissatisfaction motivates us to change, improve, create, accomplish. If it weren’t for feeling dissatisfied, we as humans wouldn’t seek innovation and improvement in ourselves and in our world. It’s a critical piece to our humanity. I’m thankful for this type of dissatisfaction, because it does drive me to improve in so many ways.
Prager distinguishes between necessary (or positive) dissatisfaction and unnecessary dissatisfaction. All creative types have a necessary dissatisfaction with their work that causes them to strive to improve it. Much of the necessary dissatisfaction in our lives leads us to make crucial changes. If we were satisfied with dating losers, we would have no incentive to find a suitable long-term mate. When couples are dissatisfied with their level of intimacy, this feeling can lead them to make improvements in communication and connection.
Unnecessary dissatisfaction relates to items that are either not important (inability to find the perfect boots) or not within our control (who your parents are). “Your dissatisfaction may be an entirely valid one, but if its cause cannot be changed, it only increases unhappiness,” says Prager. “Only when you have the serenity to accept the things you cannot change will you recognize that the dissatisfaction you feel over them is indeed unnecessary.”
So, there you have it. We will always be dissatisfied. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have happiness. It’s something we have to work out in our own minds.
Realize that when you are dissatisfied with your spouse or chosen partner, that this is a natural tendency. It doesn't mean he or she is wrong for you. You may just have to consider that even the perfect person couldn't satisfy every longing you have. Our partner can't make us happy. That's a decision we have to make on our own.
How satisfied are you with yourself, your mate, your life? Does your dissatisfaction impede your happiness level? What tips do you have when dissatisfaction drowns out your other feelings?